Harley - Lost or Found?
Disclaimer: Boys belong to others but I don't mind sharing. This is a sequel to Bikejack as suggested by a few people, Sandy (Oh no, not her again!) and Greta to mention two. So if you don't like it, blame them! If you haven't read Bikejack it's probably best that you do before reading this to see what happened to Vin.
Vin yawned and stretched contentedly before getting out of bed. He ruffled his hair energetically with his fingers and winced at the pain when he encountered a knot. Once he'd untangled it he sighed loudly as he remembered what day it was. He'd been off work for several weeks recovering from his head injury and today heralded his return to work. He got dressed reluctantly and wandered along to the kitchen where Nathan joined him.
"Sleep okay?" the medic asked.
"Yeah. Thanks for looking after me, Nate. Sorry I've been bugging ya for so long. Took me longer to get better than I expected. Hope I didn't ruin yer love life too much. Rain wasn't mad that I was always here, was she?"
"I was happy to have you, Vin. It weren't no trouble and Rain was fine about everything." Nathan spoke as he made some toast and boiled the kettle and the two men ate breakfast companionably.
They arrived at work an hour later and Vin wandered over to his desk. He cast his eye over the mess covering the work surface and turned to Buck accusingly. "Can't you tidy up after yerself, Bucklin? One desk not enough for ya?"
"Why you blaming me? Ezra sits opposite you. It might've been him," Buck complained.
Vin looked at Ezra's desk and saw it was neat and tidy as usual. All the pens and other equipment were put away in their appropriate places. Vin turned back to Buck with a raised eyebrow and the ladies' man at least had the decency to turn red.
"Alright, it was me," he admitted sheepishly. "I shoulda blamed JD instead, he's messy. I'm surprised he can find the way outta his bedroom in the morning with all the junk he's got in his room."
Vin laughed and watched as Buck swept all the items from the desk into a box that he then plonked on the floor by his own chair.
"Now I know where JD gets his bad habits from. That's your idea of filing, is it? God, no wonder your loft is a death trap," Vin grumbled as he tidied what was left on his desk
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'll deal with it later. I was looking forward to you coming back to work but now I'm not so sure. Haven't you got some work to do instead of bitching on at me all day?" Buck asked grumpily.
"Well, now I can see my desk, I can do some, can't I?" Vin retorted sarcastically as he sat down.
"You gonna get another bike, Vin?" JD asked suddenly from where he'd been watching the entertainment.
"I 'spect so. Thought I might go looking this weekend."
"Can I come?"
"Sure, kid. You'll have to drive though 'cause the jeep's not working again. Ezra lowered his standards and borrowed it last week and it broke down in the middle of nowhere. He wasn't happy, I can tell you," Vin laughed as he remembered the irate agent phoning him to complain.
"Yeah, we've heard about it endlessly. Nathan was gonna stitch his mouth shut 'cause he was driving us mad with his incessant whining," Buck chuckled.
"Is this a mothers' meeting or are you actually gonna do some work today?" Chris shouted from his office.
"We're working as we talk," Buck shouted back.
"Don't lie to me, Bucklin. You're just lounging about," Chris contradicted.
"Jeez. Has he got x-ray eyes or something?" JD whispered.
"I heard that, kid."
"God. He's got ears like a hawk or should that be elephant? He must have closed-circuit TV in there and he spends his day making sure he's getting his money's worth out of us," Buck said quietly.
"Bucklin! Do you want to spend the weekend cleaning out my barn with a toothbrush? 'Cause that's the way yer heading," Chris shouted back.
"No, Sir. Sorry, Sir. I'll be good from now on, I promise," Buck said as he stood and saluted.
"My God. Why did I choose you as a friend? I must need my head read," the blond complained. "Now pipe down, or else. I've got work to do even if you haven't."
The men decided to give their boss a break and they settled down again. Vin found the day passed quickly as did the ones that followed and it was the weekend before he knew it.
+ + + + + +
JD picked the sharpshooter up as arranged and he drove to a local man who specialized in selling bikes that needed working on. They wandered up and down the rows of bikes until Vin found one he thought would be worth buying. It wasn't a Harley but it would suit his needs for the time being.
"What do ya think, JD?"
"Looks good. Needs an awful lot of work though."
"That's half the fun. It's much better riding somethin' that you've fixed yerself and made your own," Vin explained with a smile.
He walked over to the office and paid for it and pushed it into the back of Buck's truck. JD had almost had to write his name in blood to assure the ladies' man that he would return the vehicle in one piece and with no scratches.
"Where are we taking it?" JD asked.
"Chris said I could keep it out at the ranch until it's roadworthy. He said he'd help me do it up and it's gonna take time for me to save up for all the spare parts."
JD drove him out to the ranch and dropped both the bike and sharpshooter off.
"Thanks, kid. See ya Monday." Vin waved as JD drove away.
Chris wandered out from the barn to inspect the purchase when he heard the truck leave. He did a circuit of the machine and said doubtfully, "Needs a lot doing to it. Are you sure it's worth it?"
"Well, thanks for the encouragement, Chris. 'Course it's worth it. Just try and imagine what she'll look like when she's done up," Vin said persuasively as he saw the look on Chris's face.
"I'm trying, believe me, but it's hard when it looks like a pile of junk. Are you sure you haven't been cheated?"
"I know a good bike when I see one."
"Yeah, okay but I'm still not happy about you having one," Chris said in a concerned tone.
"So you've said a hundred times before. Just give me a break, will ya? I couldn't help what happened," Vin said angrily.
"Don't get defensive, Vin. I'm allowed to worry, ain't I?"
"Sorry but it just annoys me that I lost the Harley. I loved that bike and I know I can never replace it and I can do without you bitching on at me."
"Yeah, I know Vin. I'm sorry, I don't mean to but I just can't help myself."
"Are you still gonna help me buy some spare parts today or is that against yer wishes too? I can afford a few bits and pieces so I can get started if you'll take me," Vin said.
"Sure. 'Course I'll take ya. Where ya gonna look?"
"The store down the road usually has a good supply. Might as well start there," Vin decided.
"Okay. Just let me get changed and I'll take you. You wanna go now, I assume?" Chris asked and the sharpshooter nodded vigorously in reply. Chris shook his head and smiled. Vin was like a kid in a toy store. He'd want to start playing with his new purchase as soon as he got it home but unlike a child he wouldn't get bored with it and cast it aside after a few days or when the next new toy came along.
The two men drove to the store and Vin went inside to browse while Chris stayed in the Ram and read a newspaper. He knew Vin would be gone for ages. When the sharpshooter was looking for bike parts, he was in his element and it took a lot of persuading to drag him away.
Vin wandered round the store and picked up bits and pieces as he went. When he'd collected as much as he could afford he paid for his purchases and looked up as he heard the door open. A young woman entered and she turned to face him. He averted his gaze quickly before turning his back, hoping she didn't recognize him. To the sharpshooter's amazement he saw it was the woman who had stolen his bike. Vin walked down a different aisle and headed for the door. He looked back and saw the woman had taken no notice of him whatsoever.
Chris looked up in surprise at Vin's haste in getting in the Ram. He hadn't been as long as Chris expected. The agent looked flustered and the blond frowned and narrowed his eyes in puzzlement.
"She's in there," Vin blurted out before Chris could speak.
"The woman who hit me and stole my bike."
"Are you sure it's her?" Chris asked anxiously.
"Yes, of course I'm sure. Look, there she is," Vin said irritably as he pointed the woman out to his friend.
Chris reached for the door handle but Vin put a hand on his arm and stopped him. The black clad man turned to Vin and asked in a puzzled tone, "Don't you want to catch her?"
"Yeah, 'course I do but if we follow her she might lead us to her partner."
Chris watched the woman get in an old pickup truck and he pulled out into the traffic behind her. They followed her for several miles until she pulled in at a Winnebago. Chris stopped and both men turned to watch as she knocked on the door. Vin gasped when the young man that had attacked him last month opened the door.
"Is that him?"
"Yep," Vin said as he watched the man leave his home. The couple got back in the pickup and drove off.
"Follow them or look around here?" Chris asked.
"Look here. At least we know where one of them lives and we might as well take advantage of them going out," Vin replied.
Chris opened his door when the couple were out of sight and walked across the road with Vin hurrying behind to catch up.
"You check round the back, Chris. I'll look in the Winnebago if I can get in without breaking the lock," Vin said.
"Okay. See ya in a minute." Chris disappeared round the back and started looking in the sheds that were there.
Vin, meanwhile, managed to pick the door lock without much trouble and stepped up into the Winnebago. He looked for documents that would tell him the young couple's names. He was careful not to disturb their possessions too much and he eventually found their passports and he rang Buck at home to get him to check their details. The ladies' man gave the task to JD to carry out and instead asked Vin where he was.
"Okay. I'll get a search warrant and meet you there in case you get caught. I won't be long," the mustached agent said when he'd got all the details.
Chris, in the meantime, had discovered a lot of bike parts in the sheds. There were three buildings altogether and they were all piled high with bikes. Some of the machines still had license plates and he started writing a few down to check later to make sure they were stolen.
He heard a noise behind him and expected it to be Vin. He turned round and came face to face with the young man. He had no time to react before he saw a fist coming directly at him. He couldn't duck in time and he was sent sprawling into the pile of bikes behind him as the fist connected with his cheek. The bikes dug sharply into his body and he grunted in pain as he fell. The young man turned and hurried outside as Chris disentangled himself and hobbled out after him. He saw the man heading toward the Winnebago and he quickened his pace to catch up. He caught the man by his arm and swung him round and sent a fist into his stomach. Somewhere along the line the man had picked up an iron bar and he retaliated by striking Chris hard on his upper chest near his shoulder. The blond heard a crack and he fell to his knees as he clutched the injured area.
"Vin!" he managed to yell before the man struck his arm again with the bar. The pain was incredible and Chris cried out.
Vin heard Chris's yell and opened the door to see what the blond wanted. He found himself facing a gun and he looked up and saw the woman was holding it. Shit! Where the hell had she come from? he asked himself. He flung himself at her and managed to knock the gun from her hand before she could fire. They rolled around on the ground and he finally got her pinned down and he straddled her on his hands and knees.
"Vin! Look out," Chris shouted from where he sat watching helplessly.
Vin turned his head just in time to see the man sending a kick to his unprotected midriff. The toe of a very sharp boot caught him in the middle of his torso and the man followed this up with a strike from the iron bar that catapulted the sharpshooter onto the ground away from the woman. Vin couldn't catch his breath and he had a burning pain over his heart. Every breath sent a stabbing pain through his body.
He watched breathlessly as the young couple headed back to the truck and drove away. Vin scrambled to his feet and fell back to his knees straight away as his legs gave way. He put a hand to his chest and groaned before crawling to the road to see which way the truck headed. The vehicle took a left and Vin knew there were no turnoffs on that road for several miles. He stood up with his hand still clamped to his chest as he stumbled over to Chris who was knelt on the ground bent double.
"Chris? What's the matter?" Vin reached out and immediately withdrew his hand as Chris yelled at the touch.
"My arm. I heard it break," he managed to mumble through clenched teeth.
Vin turned as he heard the screech of tires and he saw Buck pull up in his truck. The sharpshooter got to his feet carefully and said, "Buck's here. I'm going after them."
"Vin. They've gone."
"I know which road they're on. I'm gonna catch up with 'em."
"Tanner, don't go. Just leave it," Chris pleaded but he knew he'd lost the argument. He watched in dismay as Vin stumbled to the Ram and started the motor with the spare set of keys that Chris had given him months ago.
Buck ran over to Chris and knelt down beside him. "What happened? Where's Vin going?"
"After the young couple. They came back and caught us off guard."
"Are you hurt?"
"My right arm. I think it's broke."
"Let me see," Buck said as he studied the limb. Chris had it clamped to his chest and he groaned when Buck touched it.
"Sorry. Couldn't help but hurt ya. It looks like you broke yer collarbone too. Better get you to the hospital."
"No. Go after Vin."
"I can't leave you like this and he could be anywhere by now. It'd be a wild goose chase," Buck disagreed.
"Damned fool. I hope he doesn't try to tackle 'em himself."
"Was he alright? He wasn't hurt?"
"The guy kicked him hard and hit him with the same iron bar he caught me with but it didn't stop him running to the Ram. It must have hurt him plenty though and he looked a bit unsteady on his feet," Chris said worriedly. His explanation was interrupted when his phone rang.
Buck reached out and pulled it from Chris's pocket and answered it for him. "Yeah?"
"Buck? Is Chris okay?"
"Vin? His arm's broken and he's not happy with you. Are you alright? Where the hell are you?" the ladies' man asked irritably.
"I'm okay," Vin lied as he rubbed his chest. "I'm a few miles away from where you are. It must be about halfway between Denver and Castle Rock. They thought they'd lost me but I followed them to a warehouse."
"Don't go in on yer own, Vin. Tell me exactly where you are and I'll get one of the others to join you. It'll probably be Ezra so just wait until he gets there. I'll call you back when I've spoken to him."
Buck immediately punched in Ezra's number after getting directions from Vin. "Ez? Can you go to the following address? Vin's found the people who stole his bike. He's in Chris's Ram. They attacked Chris and he's broken his arm so I can't leave him."
"I'll be with him expeditiously, Mr. Wilmington. Don't let Mr. Larabee fret," Ezra said soothingly.
"Thanks, Ez." Buck disconnected and phoned Vin again. "Vin? Ezra's on his way. Let us know how you get on. I'd better take Chris to the hospital. Don't do anything stupid, you hear me, pard?" Buck ordered.
"Yeah. I hear ya."
+ + + + + +
Vin was getting itchy feet. He looked around but couldn't see Ezra anywhere near him. Hurry up, Ez or I'm not waiting for you much longer, he thought to himself as he settled back into his seat.
The passenger door opened and he swung round with a gasp and then sighed as he saw Ezra climbing in. Where the hell had he come from? I must be losing my touch. The sharpshooter scowled at the new arrival and said, "Couldn't you have made a bit more noise? You scared the shit outta me."
"Glad to see you're still here to have the shit scared out of, Mr. Tanner. Mr. Wilmington would have my hide if you'd disobeyed his order."
"Well, I wouldn't have been here much longer. You take as long to get ready as a girl going out for the evening with her boyfriend," Vin laughed.
Ezra ignored the comment and asked, "Where are our two miscreants?"
"In that warehouse," Vin said as he pointed to the building opposite.
"How do you want to handle matters? Have you checked the exterior? Is there a rear door they could escape through?"
"What is this? Twenty questions?" Vin asked. "Yeah, I've checked everything. This is the only way in."
"So shall we wait until they emerge?"
"Yeah. They might not be alone in there. Let's just wait and see. It looks like a fairly big operation if they need a warehouse. We might be able to shut the whole outfit down and catch a few more of the gang, if there is one."
The two men were quiet for half an hour until they saw six people come out of the building, including the two they were after. Vin pointed the young couple out to Ezra so he knew who they were initially after. The group talked for a while before splitting up and walking to their vehicles.
"What do you want to do now, Mr. Tanner?"
"Follow my two and see where they go. I can't think they'll risk returning to the Winnebago." He started the Ram and followed at a safe distance.
The couple drove to another house and entered it as if they owned it. Vin and Ezra parked a distance away and watched for an hour but there was no movement at the house at all.
Vin decided to phone Buck to check on his injured friend. He asked as soon as the call was answered, "How's Chris?"
"Vin? He's okay but still in pain. We've just got back to the ranch. How are you getting on? Are you really alright? Chris said the guy kicked you and hit you with the bar too."
"I'll be okay. Just hurts when I laugh. We've followed the couple to another house. It seems they're a small part of a large organized gang. I'm not sure what to do next but I'd like to get the whole kit and caboodle if possible."
"Well, there's only JD and me to help at the moment and I can't leave Chris. It's his right arm and collarbone that's broken so he can't do much for himself. Just do surveillance today and we'll sort something out on Monday when the others are back. Can I speak to Ezra?"
Vin tapped the undercover agent's arm and passed him the phone.
"Ez?" Buck said. "Make sure Vin only does surveillance. Look but don't touch, okay? We can't do anything now to catch the whole gang."
"Of course, Mr. Wilmington. Is Mr. Larabee well?"
"He'll be alright. Just stiff and sore and he'll be off work for a bit. He's wandering round like Quasimodo at the moment," Buck said.
"Give him our regards and I'll speak to you later," Ezra said before turning the phone off.
"He tell you to make me behave?" Vin asked sourly.
"Are you a telepath, Mr. Tanner? That's exactly what he said."
"I just knew Chris would be telling him to say something."
"It's with good reason, Vin. They appear to be a nasty pair, bearing in mind what happened to you last month and now Chris with his injury. Did I hear you say you were hurt? Are you in need of medical assistance?"
"I'm okay. He hit me but it doesn't hurt so much now. I'll be alright."
"Let me see," Ezra ordered. He knew what Vin's version of 'alright' usually meant.
Vin lifted his shirt and Ezra winced as he saw the large bruise developing there but the skin was not broken. "Looks painful," he commented as he reached out a hand to examine the area.
"Ow, Ezra. Just leave it alone, will ya? It's hurts more with you prodding it. I'll survive."
"Well, I think you ought to at least allow Mr. Jackson to check you out. You could have broken a rib."
"I'll see him later, okay? I promise. Now, how are we gonna play this, Ez?" the sharpshooter asked his friend. "We can't stay here non stop until Monday."
"Quite so and I will not suggest that we take it in turns because I can't keep my beady eye on your antics then."
"Don't ya trust me, Ez?" Vin laughed before continuing, "At least we know they come to this house and the warehouse so I s'pose that will have to do for the moment. Let's stay a bit longer just to make sure they haven't been frightened into leaving town. They must think they're safe though or they wouldn't have gone to the warehouse in the first place."
"Fair enough but you'd better come and stay with me afterwards. I wouldn't want an irate Mr. Larabee descending on me in a fit of rage if I leave you on your own. He's still a formidable opponent even if he has only one hand with which to thump me," Ezra chuckled.
"He'd probably set Buck on you instead to make sure he gets his money's worth. He'll be quite happy shouting encouragement from the sidelines, Ez. Anyway, I'm sure you can stick up for yerself. You're not that much of a wimp, are ya? You could always tickle Buck to death. He'd be a quivering wreck if you can get hold of his feet."
"God! What a horrible thought. Thank you for the advice but observing or touching other people's feet is enough to make me nauseous. I will keep that interesting piece of information at the back of my mind though. It may come in handy at a later date if I am really desperate and Buck needs disciplining. How did you found out about his Achilles heel anyway? Oh, that was rather good, wasn't it? Achilles heel? Feet? Do you get it?"
"Yeah. You're a laugh a minute, Ez. A real riot. Do you wanna know about Buck's feet or not? Well, one of his...."
"No, Mr. Tanner, stop right there." Ezra held up both hands to stop Vin in mid-sentence. "On second thoughts, I don't think I want to know."
"Your loss. Well, I promise you that I won't do anything about the gang until Monday, so you shouldn't have to face Bucklin's feet at all," Vin laughed.
"All the same. I'd prefer to have you where I can see you. Call it life insurance, if you will."
"Coward," Vin said as he grinned.
"No, just sensible, Mr. Tanner."
The two men sat in the Ram until the end of the day but the couple did not have any visitors or leave the house. Ezra insisted that Vin drove to see Nathan before they went home and the sharpshooter reluctantly did as he was told. The medic checked Vin's chest and sent him to the hospital for some x-rays just to be on the safe side. Ezra then drove Vin back to his house after the doctor had assured both men that the sharpshooter was just severely bruised.
The undercover agent kept Vin where he could see him at all times during the weekend but Ezra didn't really think he would disobey a direct order from Chris. Ezra called Buck that evening to update him and said that they would visit Chris on Monday after work to see how he was.
The two agents drove by the young couple's house again the next day and saw that the pickup truck was still parked outside so they didn't bother staying to watch. They also drove out to the Winnebago to check there and saw that it had been cleared. There were no bikes to be found in the sheds and all traces of the couple had gone.
"Oh well, Mr Tanner. At least that reduces the number of places we need to keep an eye on," Ezra said resignedly.
+ + + + + +
Monday arrived and they went to work and to their surprise Chris was there.
"Hey cowboy. Didn't expect to see you here. Shouldn't you be at home?" Vin asked as he studied his friend.
"I can be one-handed here as well as at home. Wanted to make sure you didn't give Ezra any trouble over the weekend."
"He was a perfect house guest, Mr. Larabee," Ezra assured the blond man.
"Glad to hear it. Now I want all the details. What did you find out?" Chris asked as he shifted in his chair irritably. His arm and chest ached and he felt as if he was in a straight jacket. He gave up trying to get comfortable and started walking round the room instead.
"Well, they met four other people at the warehouse but no one visited at the house. We stayed until the end of the day on Saturday and checked again yesterday but they seemed settled. However, we went to the Winnebago and it's been stripped. It looked as though no one had lived there for years."
"Hopefully they've moved everything from the Winnebago to the warehouse. So we need to catch the gang there," Chris said. "Could you get into the warehouse and check it out, Vin? It would be good to know the layout."
"Yeah. There was only one way in and out. I could do it tonight if there's no one about."
"Buck, you go with him. Take Josiah and Ezra too. I don't want anyone alone in this. Two go in and two stay outside to watch," Chris advised.
"Okay. Meet at ten, shall we?" Josiah suggested.
"Make sure you're in contact with each other all the time and ring me when you're done," Chris instructed.
"We could be quite late. Wouldn't you be better off resting? We can manage," Buck said as he looked at his oldest friend.
"I've got as much reason to want those bastards caught. I wanna be kept up to date with what's happening, seeing as I can't be there in person."
"Yeah okay, pard. Well, there's no need for you to be here now so I'll take you home. No arguments either. I can do a Larabee stare if I need to," Buck warned.
"I'd like to see that, Bucklin. No one can stare in such a disapproving way quite like our illustrious leader," Ezra observed dryly from where he lounged in his chair.
"I can," Buck disagreed.
"Show me then," Ezra challenged with a raised eyebrow and a flash of his gold tooth.
Buck screwed up his face in an attempt at recreating the desired effect.
"Pitiful, Mr. Wilmington. It looks more like an infant that's suffering from colic," Ezra replied as he shook his head in disappointment.
JD burst out laughing and Buck punched him before grinning too.
Nathan said to Chris, "Look, I'll take ya home. If you're working tonight Buck you don't wanna have to drive out to the ranch and come back again."
"Good idea. Thanks Nate."
The medic escorted Chris out of the office gently and let the blond set the pace along to the elevator. Once the two men had gone the others made preparations for the night.
"What do ya want me to do?" JD asked.
"Did ya find out whether the couple have prior convictions?" Vin asked.
"Yeah. I checked but I couldn't trace anything."
"Well, this is the address of the house where they were and the warehouse's location. See what you can find out about those. See if they own the house or if not who does," Vin replied.
The rest of the men who would be working that night went home to catch up on some sleep and they arranged to meet at Ezra's house at nine before going onto the warehouse.
+ + + + + +
They met up at the agreed time and drove to the warehouse where they first checked to make sure that there was no one about. Vin got out and wandered round the perimeter of the building with Buck to start with. They returned and walked over to the entrance as Josiah and Ezra kept watch. Vin managed to open the padlock after a bit of a struggle and the two men entered the building.
They did a thorough examination and Vin drew a rough plan of the layout before leaving so he could show the others. The warehouse had an office at the front and then had rows of crates scattered about. It was not tidy by any stretch of the imagination. Vin looked inside one crate that was open and saw it was packed with bike parts.
"They must break the bikes down and sell the parts off separately. They'd be much harder to trace then," Vin said to Buck before the two men left.
They met up with their companions outside and updated them before splitting up and going home to get some sleep. When Vin reached his apartment he phoned Chris as promised and told him what they'd found.
+ + + + + +
Chris got Buck to drive him into work again the next day to help arrange the bust. The blond walked stiffly into the conference room and perched painfully on the corner of the table.
"Okay boys. I think we need to act fast on this. It doesn't look as if they've taken the run in with Vin and me too seriously but I don't want to give them the chance of running out on us," Chris said. "Let's look at the drawings that Vin did and see if we can come up with a plan."
Vin had drawn the plan of the warehouse on a whiteboard so it was big enough to be seen.
"There's not really much I can tell you. The only sure thing is that there is only one way in and out. We can't guarantee the crates will still be in the same positions that they are on my drawing. They could have been moved or more may have been added by the time we go in. There is also the possibility that the warehouse has been cleared of all crates and we'd be left with no cover whatsoever. Yes, we'd have the element of surprise but I don't recommend going in blind. I think we'll have to rely on catching the gang outside the building."
"Thanks, Vin. You'll have to use your vehicles for cover outside the warehouse 'cause there don't seem to be any suitable buildings nearby for you to use. Okay, let's start by checking with our informants to see if anyone knows when the gang are likely to be there. If we don't have any luck with them we'll have to do some surveillance instead," Chris decided as he stood up with a groan.
The men rose and started calling all their contacts. JD came up trumps after about fifteen unsuccessful attempts.
"Chris? The gang are gonna be moving the bikes tomorrow. They did get scared after all and are moving bases. They've got some extra help in to move all the crates so there are gonna be a lot more people to deal with than we expected."
"Well, we can get backup too. Does he know how many more people?"
"Na. Double figures though."
"Okay. I'll get something sorted. Have you got an exact time?"
"All he knows is it will be during the evening."
"Thanks, JD. Let's get there at five and we'll just have to wait. We'll try to get as many as we can but the two most important are the young couple who attacked Vin and me."
"What's all this we business, pard? Yer not gonna be there," Buck said.
"I know, Bucklin. It's just force of habit. I'll be there in spirit, believe me."
The ladies' man smiled and joined the rest of the team who were making arrangements and collecting equipment for the next day.
+ + + + + +
They got into position at five as agreed and spread around the area in their cars. Chris had got some backup waiting in a building half a block away so they could arrive very quickly if needed. He didn't want too many people hanging around the warehouse in case they aroused the suspicions of the gang.
When they arrived they could see the gang were already making preparations to leave. Buck counted all the people he could see and he realized that the extra people weren't there yet.
"Vin? Shall we take them now while they're on their own?" Buck asked as he phoned his colleague.
"We can't guarantee that the others won't turn up when we're in the middle of it. Look, I'll call the backup in and get them in position and they should be able to deal with them if they turn up. If they see the place crawling with cops they're more likely to turn tail and run, but we're not really interested them anyway. I'll call you when I've got things set up."
The sharpshooter made the appropriate arrangements and then gave the team the go ahead to move in when he saw the backup team arrive.
The men exited their vehicles and moved toward the building quietly. The gang emerged as if on cue and Vin waited until they had got some distance from the warehouse. He shouted a warning to stand where they were but the gang split up and ran in different directions. They found all their escape routes blocked by either policemen or ATF agents.
Vin kept an eye on his targets and saw the young man running away and he set off in pursuit. His quarry spotted him and did an about turn and headed back the way he had come. Seeing no escape that way either he headed back into the warehouse. It was a stupid move as there was only one way in or out of the building. Josiah had seen them go inside and he took up residence in the doorway to stop any escape attempt.
The young man looked back over his shoulder and saw the doorway blocked as he tried to circle round behind Vin. He headed to the back of the warehouse instead in the hope of drawing Josiah inside too. Vin followed the man slowly and ran from crate to crate to keep himself covered. He pulled his weapon from its holster and stood listening for some time. He thought he could hear footsteps so he looked round the edge of the crate and saw the man disappearing behind another stack.
Vin rose and ran quietly over to them and took a quick peek before moving forward again. The man was squatting on the ground with his back to Vin about twenty yards ahead. He was trying to hide behind some crates that were piled three high.
"Stay where you are and put yer hands where I can see 'em," Vin said loudly as he stood and walked toward the man cautiously.
His quarry turned slowly with his hands in the air. Vin walked toward him with his gun aimed unerringly at his chest. As he drew near, the man suddenly moved and pulled the crate nearest him so it toppled down onto the sharpshooter. Vin managed to snap off a quick shot and he heard the man grunt as the bullet hit him. He dropped his gun as he put his hands out to try to deflect the crate but he couldn't stop it from hitting him. The crate fell heavily and pinned the sharpshooter to the floor.
Josiah heard the crash from the doorway and wondered what to do. Should he go inside or stay where he was? He looked round and saw JD and he beckoned him over and the big man said, "Stay here, JD. Something's wrong."
The big man moved cautiously in the direction of the noise. Meanwhile, Vin was trying to extricate himself from under the crate. It was empty but heavy and awkward to deal with. Vin managed to move it slowly although it took a bit of effort. He saw the man walking away toward the exit with a hand on his arm. Vin made one final effort to get free and he pushed the crate away from him. He knew he was going to have another set of bruises to add to the one on his chest. He stood up with a groan and hobbled as fast as he could after the man and flung himself at him. He got hold of him round the knees and brought him to the ground.
The man fought fiercely and got out from under Vin and grabbed Vin's shirt roughly. As he pulled the sharpshooter to his feet he sent a punch to his face. Vin hit back with a flurry of punches straight away and the man stumbled backwards until he came up against the wall. He reached into a pocket and produced a flick knife that he waved in Vin's direction to try to keep the agent away. Vin kicked out and knocked the knife from his hand and advanced on his quarry again. The man dived under Vin's arms and tried to retrieve the knife before Vin could get hold of him. He landed flat out on the ground next to the knife and he reached out and picked it up. He flipped over onto his back and stuck out a foot and tripped Vin up before throwing himself on top of the agent and pinning him to the floor.
Vin looked up and saw the knife heading for his face so he raised his arms to try to protect himself. He felt the blade slice his forearm and he hissed in pain. The sharpshooter kept his arms over his face as the man tried to get inside his defences. He tried to catch the man's hands but his assailant took advantage and sent the knife toward his neck instead Vin quickly bent an elbow and knocked the man's hand aside before he could make contact. He cried out as the blade bit into his arm again. The man tried a different tactic and slashed Vin's torso instead. The agent went for his attacker's unprotected throat and tried to force him back but that left his arms vulnerable to attack. In an effort to make Vin let go the tight hold on his neck the man cut Vin's hands and arms repeatedly. One strike near his hand had the desired effect and Vin let go with a scream. The sharpshooter held his hand to his chest unable to defend himself any more but he suddenly felt the man's weight!
pulled off him. He looked up to see Josiah send a massive fist into his attacker's face.
"JD? Get over here!" Josiah shouted urgently. The kid came running and took charge of the prisoner.
Josiah knelt down next to Vin quickly and saw the blood soaking into his shirt under the limb Vin had on his chest. The profiler couldn't tell whether the blood was coming from Vin's chest or arm. He found out when he gently pulled the sharpshooter's arm straight and Vin cried out in pain. The profiler looked at the arm and saw a slash from the knife had gone deep in his wrist and was pumping bright red blood at an alarming rate. Josiah grabbed the wrist and covered the wound with his fingers and applied pressure. He had nothing sanitary on him to put over the cut and he couldn't waste time finding something suitable. He raised Vin's arm in the air and turned to JD anxiously.
"Get Nate here, now."
The youngster turned and hurried his prisoner outside and Josiah could hear him shouting for the medic.
"Josiah? Where are you?" Nathan called as he stepped into the warehouse. Moving from daylight to the darkness of the building made it impossible for Nathan to see Josiah.
"Over here." The profiler raised his free arm and waved it in the air to attract his friend's attention.
"What happened?" Nathan asked as he dropped to his knees beside the two men.
"He had a knife and he's cut Vin's wrist badly. Looks like he hit the artery to me," Josiah said quickly.
"Okay. Let me see." Nathan carefully peeked under Josiah's hand and saw the blood spurt out from under it. "Shit. You're right. Keep it elevated and keep the pressure on while I get an ambulance."
"How do you feel, Vin?" Josiah asked as he heard Nathan talking on his cell.
"I know. Just relax and stay as still as you can," Josiah said soothingly.
Nathan finished the call and sat down beside Vin again. "I don't know. I just get you recovered from one injury and you go and get hurt again. What am I gonna do with ya?"
Buck hurried over and looked down at the three men. "What's the matter? JD said Vin was hurt."
"He's cut the artery in his wrist. Can you get the oxygen out of the Explorer?" Nathan asked as he handed his keys over.
"Sure thing." Buck turned and ran out to the vehicle and returned quickly with the requested item.
Nathan, meanwhile, pulled out a pressure bandage from the first aid kit he'd brought with him and started to cover the wound as Josiah held the affected limb in the air. The bandage became soaked with blood very quickly and Nathan cursed as he replaced it. Once he'd renewed the bandage he kept his hand over the wound as well and was relieved to see the bleeding did stop.
"Do ya feel okay, Vin?" Nathan asked as he looked down at the sharpshooter.
"Yeah. Just dizzy."
Nathan turned to Buck and said, "Can you sort out the oxygen? I daren't let go of his wrist at the moment."
Buck did as he was told and studied the sharpshooter as he worked. He thought Vin looked a bit pale and sick.
Josiah patted the injured man's shoulder and smiled encouragingly as he heard the sound of a siren. "Ambulance is here. You'll be sorted soon."
The paramedics ran over to the huddle of men in the warehouse and checked on Vin's condition and set up an IV before transferring him to the ambulance. Nathan kept his hold on Vin's wrist and walked to the emergency vehicle to accompany the sharpshooter to the hospital.
The rest of the men watched the vehicle disappear and then followed along behind. They left the police to deal with their prisoners. Buck spotted Nathan in the waiting room and walked over to him. Josiah sat down next to him and tapped his shoulder to get his attention.
"Nate? How's Vin?" the profiler asked.
"They've taken him into surgery. It started bleeding again and they've gotta stitch it up. The artery was torn rather than cut right through and he's lost quite a bit of blood but they say he'll be fine."
The men scattered themselves around the room as they waited for news. Buck suddenly remembered Chris and pulled out his cell phone to update his friend. "Chris? Vin's been hurt. The young guy cut the artery in his wrist and he was bleeding quite badly but Nathan says he'll be fine. I'll let you know how he is when we get to see him."
"Shit. Thanks for letting me know, Bucklin. Can someone come and get me? I wanna be there," Chris asked.
"There's nothing you can do, pard."
"I can be there for him, Bucklin. Please come and get me."
"Okay. I'll send JD." Buck sighed and disconnected as he shook his head before turning to the kid. "JD? Can you go and collect Chris? He insists that he needs to be here. I'll ring you if you're not back when we hear how Vin is, I promise."
About an hour after JD left, a doctor arrived and walked over to Nathan. "Mr. Jackson? He's out of surgery. We've stitched all the cuts up and got the bleeding stopped in his wrist. He gonna be in a bit of pain but we've put him on strong painkillers. Do you want to sit with him?"
"Yeah. Can we all go?"
"Don't see why not. Follow me."
The men rose and followed the doctor along the hallway until they reached Vin's room. They entered quietly and saw he was still asleep. He had his right arm in an upright position and it was heavily bandaged. His other arm was bandaged from the shoulder all the way down to his hand and lay on the top of the bed covers. The men sat down and waited for their friend to wake. Buck disappeared to phone JD as he had promised and he returned just in time to see Vin's eyes open.
"Hey there, pard. How are you feeling?" the ladies' man asked softly.
"Tired. Is my wrist alright?" Vin whispered worriedly as he saw the bandages covering his arms.
"Yeah. It'll be fine, don't worry, Vin. Think yerself lucky both arms are still attached to yer shoulders. He cut you pretty badly. Chris is on his way and will give you hell when he gets here so you'd better get some sleep now before he arrives. You won't get much afterwards with him bitching on at ya for getting hurt again."
Vin smiled and went back to sleep. He had a feeling Buck may be right. He woke a few hours later to find Chris dozing in a chair on his own. The other men were nowhere to be seen.
The blond woke with a start and winced as his shoulder hurt at the jerking motion. He looked over at the bed and saw Vin smiling at him.
"Hey cowboy. Thought you weren't ever gonna wake up. How do ya feel?"
"Okay. Look I'm really sorry."
"Why? You couldn't help what happened and I'm not gonna bawl you out no matter what Buck told ya," Chris said smiling.
"Can I stay with you when I get out? I don't think Nathan would be too eager to have me again. I'm sure Rain wasn't best pleased that I was there although he's too polite to tell me so."
"Sure you can stay. We can have lost of 'armless fun together," Chris laughed.
"God, not you too. Ezra said something he thought was funny about feet the other day. I can't bear to hear any more anatomical jokes."
"I'm sorry. Someone's gonna have to stay with us. We can't exactly look after ourselves, can we?"
"Yeah. Jeez, you know what? I can't even wipe my ass. Who the hell's gonna do that for me?" Vin asked.
The two men looked at one another and laughed before saying in unison, "Ezra!"
"Do I hear my name being spoken in vain?" the undercover agent asked as he ambled into the room.
"Yeah, ya did. We need someone to take care of both of us and we thought you'd volunteer."
"Really?" the man asked suspiciously. "Why do I get the feeling it wouldn't be a pleasant experience?"
"Well, we've just realized that there are certain things we can't do. We thought you'd be only too happy to help out," Chris said with a big grin on his face.
"Bathing. Cooking. Getting dressed and Vin needs his ass wiped."
Ezra paled and backed toward the door with hands raised. "No, no. I'd love to oblige but Maude has asked me to stay with her."
"I can't believe you'd rather stay with Maude than do that job for Vin, Ezra," Chris said.
"I'd rather leap into a vat of acid than face that part of your anatomy, Mr Tanner. There are many things I would do for you but not that."
"Coward!" Vin shouted as the agent ran off down the hallway.
"Oh, God. I enjoyed that. The look on his face was priceless," Chris said.
Buck entered the room and saw the smiles on his friend's faces. "Where's Ez going? What did you say to him?"
"We just asked him to look after us when Vin gets out of here but he refused."
"I can take care of you both. It's no trouble," Buck said innocently.
"That's good. We're glad to hear it, aren't we, Vin?" Chris said mischievously.
"Yeah. What put Ezra off was.......Look, I'm too embarrassed to say it out loud. Come over here and I'll whisper it," Vin said.
Buck walked over to the bed and leant down so Vin could whisper in his ear. The ladies' man straightened up abruptly and paled considerably.
"You promised. So you can't back out now," Chris said as he laughed out loud.
"I'll get you back for this. God, I'm just too nice for my own good. I'll learn, one day, not to volunteer for things before I know all the details."
"You'll be guaranteed a place in Heaven," Vin said piously.
"I'd better be. I expect a seat next to God for this," Buck said as he walked out of the room with a smile.
+ + + + + +
Vin was released from hospital the next day and Buck took him back to the ranch to join Chris. His arm with the slashed wrist was strapped to his chest for protection and Buck was careful when touching him. The ladies' man kept his word about taking care of both of them although he wasn't looking forward to the task Vin had threatened. Vin thought he'd have a bit of fun and didn't let on that he could actually use his other hand. He was emphatic, when Buck asked how it was, that it was still too painful.
The ladies' man happened to walk by the living room the day after Vin's release and saw the sharpshooter lifting a book with his supposedly unusable appendage. Buck smiled and kept quiet. He walked through to the kitchen and after a while he heard his name being called.
"Bucklin? I need the john."
"Okay Vin, don't fret." The ladies' man walked back and collected the sharpshooter and led him along to the bathroom. Buck stood back and let Vin walk inside first. He then pulled the door shut quickly and locked it so the sharpshooter was stranded on the other side of the door.
"Buck? What ya doin'?"
"Vin Tanner. You are a liar. I saw you using your hand. You can stay in there until you apologize to me."
"Come on Buck. It was only a joke."
Chris walked out as he heard the shouting. "What's going on?"
"Vin can use his hand well enough. I saw him lifting a heavy book earlier. He lied to me so I've locked him in here."
"Sorry Vin. Can't help ya. This is between the two of you to sort out," Chris said smiling.
"You'll be sorry, Larabee. Wait 'til you need help. I'll turn and walk away even if you're gonna be eaten by a grizzly."
"Promises, promises. See ya later, cowboy."
Both men turned and walked away laughing. They could hear Vin calling all the way back to the kitchen. They closed the door to dull the shouting and let him stew for a while. Buck eventually thought Vin had learnt his lesson and he wandered back to let him out.
"You ready with a grovelling apology?" he called from outside.
"Yeah but I want to say it to yer face."
Buck unlocked the door and walked in. Vin looked contrite and was sitting on the side of the bathtub with his uninjured hand on the faucet to steady himself. Buck stood just inside the door and waited patiently.
Vin looked up and said, "Look, I'm sorry to have lied to you Bucklin. I was just bullshitting and I wouldn't have made ya do it. Honest." Vin put a look on his face like an innocent choirboy.
Buck nodded and accepted what had been said and he walked toward the sharpshooter unsuspectingly. As he drew near, Vin turned the faucet on and lifted up the shower attachment that was hidden behind him. He sprayed Buck with freezing cold water while shouting, "That's for locking me in here ya spoilsport."
Buck lifted up his arms to try to fend off the water and eventually turned his back completely. The sharpshooter thought Buck had got the message and turned the water off. When the ladies' man looked round Vin thought he'd overstepped the mark. The man looked furious and Vin stood up and backed away apprehensively.
"Don't go ballistic Buck. It was just a joke."
"Yeah well I've had enough of yer jokes, boy. I'm gonna wring that pretty neck of yours when I get my hands on you." He moved toward Vin menacingly dripping water as he moved.
"Who says I've got a pretty neck? Not you I hope," Vin said as he tried to circle round his aggressor.
"God, no. That Sandy chick who's so enamoured of you said so. She came to visit you in hospital after you'd lost yer bike remember?"
"Right. I'm off to see her. She'll protect me from ya," the sharpshooter said as he ducked under Buck's outstretched arms and hurried out the door.
Buck laughed his head off and yelled, "Chicken."
He walked back to the kitchen to show Chris what had been done to him and the black clad man smiled.
"Why did ya think you could get the better of Vin? You never learn, do ya?"
+ + + + + +
Life got back to normal and a few days after Vin had been released Ezra came to visit. He brought several things with him and several helpers to unload it all from Buck's truck.
"Vin? I have a surprise for you. We had to check all the bike parts at the warehouse and guess what we found."
"Did ya find my bike?" the sharpshooter asked eagerly.
"In a manner of speaking, yes we did."
"What do you mean?" Vin asked frowning.
"You'd better take a look," the undercover agent advised.
Vin followed his friend out and looked at what he'd brought. Chris wandered out behind them and stood beside the sharpshooter and grinned.
"Well, you did say you wanted a wreck to fix," the blond said as he burst out laughing.
"I didn't mean it this literally." The sharpshooter sighed as he saw the bike parts piled high in a box. Although the main body of the bike was intact, it looked just like a skeleton. It was going to take him a long time to put it all together again. He looked at Buck suspiciously.
The ladies' man said defensively, "What ya looking at me for?"
"I bet you dismantled it to get me back for soaking ya, didn't ya?"
"Not guilty. I wouldn't be so mean."
"Yeah right." Vin then turned his attention to Ezra and asked while scowling, "You did make sure all the bits were there, didn't ya? I don't wanna get it all done only to find there's no seat on it."
"No, I didn't check. I wouldn't know a bike part from a truck part anyway. That's your department. I thought you'd be pleased," Ezra said a touch sadly.
"I am Ez, don't get me wrong. I'm really grateful. If yer lucky, I'll even take you for a spin on it when it's ready."
"Thank you for the offer but I like my body the way it is. I like to be surrounded by nice, safe, sturdy metal when I'm on the road. I wouldn't feel safe out in the open air with no seat belt."
"I'll turn you into a biker," Vin promised.
"Over my dead body."
"That can be arranged," Vin said with a laugh.
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